How to Nap at Work

how-to-nap-at-workDo you nap at the office?  What are your best tips for napping at the office (possibly without getting caught)?  We took a poll on office naps a thousand years ago, but haven’t really discussed since then, and I thought it might be an interesting topic.

First, some factoids from the Internet — according to Inc., researchers concluded in 2010 that “napping can improve the brain’s ability to retain information, noting that a middle-of-the-day reprieve ‘not only rights the wrong of prolonged wakefulness but, at a neurocognitive level, it moves you beyond where you were before.'”  More and more offices are adding nap rooms (or buying “sleep capsules,” which give you a bit more privacy).  (On the flip side, as notes, some companies still consider it grounds for firing – know your office!)  For the DIY-nappers, there’s even a fully funded Kickstarter campaign for a pillow that gives you a “micro environment in which to take a comfortable power nap” (pictured — you can now buy the pillow for $99). Apparently, in Japan napping is so popular among top executives that there’s an entire culture around it.  It’s important to note that napping is not necessarily “sleeping” — and even if you normally take 30+ minutes to fall asleep at night you can reap the benefits.  According to Lifehacker, Pzizz is a new tool that can help you “learn” to power nap (and help with nighttime insomnia too).

So, ladies — do you nap at the office?  Is there a nap room or other space available for napping, and do you actually use it?  Have you picked up any tips or tricks (signs on the door, special messages for your secretary, etc) that makes napping at work easier?

For my own $.02, I’ll admit it: I occasionally took 20-minute naps at work, usually when it was a really intense work period.  If it was 3PM and I was settling in for another nine hours of work, I didn’t see the harm.  I’d usually just lock my office door, set the alarm on my phone, and put my head down on the desk.  (Pro tip, learned from one of my former colleagues: make sure your desk is clear of paper clips; those suckers really stick to your forehead!)  Very rarely, I would actually lie down on the floor.  I didn’t have a blanket at work, but I did have my trusty office wrap, as well as a calf-length sweater coat. (I’d bought the sweater on final sale somewhere for $15 and it was a disaster — I swear the sleeves grew two inches every time I put it on.  Still, it was the perfect thing to keep at the office for chilly days, so long as I never wore it outside the four walls of my office — and if a coworker had to pop in with a question it was a lot more professional than a sweatshirt or, you know, bathrobe.) Even if I didn’t manage to “sleep” for 20 minutes, I always felt refreshed — sometimes just closing your eyes and tuning out for a few minutes is just what you need.


  1. Kat, do you secretly work in my office? There was a lady (new to the job!) this morning who fell asleep on the desk in her semi-high cubicle. While the semi-cubicle was enough to conceal her from all but 8 pairs of eyes, unfortunately her snores alerted 10 others surrounding her. *facepalmsonherbehalf*

  2. I would never deliberately sleep at work (although reading depositions can quickly result a few Zzzs). If I am so tired that I just can’t keep my eyes open enough to make it through the day, I leave and go home. Of course, I’m a partner which gives me more flexiblity than others may have.

    • I live about 10 mins from my office so if I really am getting that tired, I’ll head home for “lunch” and take a 30 minute nap.

      • TO Lawyer :

        I do this too. If I’m really zoning out, I’ll close my door and take a few quiet minutes but I think I’m too paranoid/uncomfortable to actually fall asleep

  3. I nap. If it’s a very quiet afternoon, I’ll shut my office door and put my forehead on my desk (I put a wad of tissues under my forehead to prevent a telltale red splotch there) and drift off for about 10 min. Even if I just nap for 5 minutes, it’s often enough to get rid of that terrible mid-afternoon drowsiness.

  4. Calibrachoa :

    I used to work with a guy who kept an air mattress and a pump in his locker.

    I haven’t gotten that far, but I keep a travel pillow that wraps around my neck and a soft fuzzy blanket in mine – there are days when I end up just wrapping up and taking my lunch flopped in a corner. The travel pillow saves me a world of sore necks!

  5. Only if I’m extremely hungover.

    Just kidding. I would not nap at work. If I didn’t feel well, I would go home. If I’m tired, I get coffee or tea.

  6. I nap. I find that 10-20 min. of napping makes me much more productive, esp. vs. trying to fight past drowsiness. I close my office door, put my feet on the desk and just recline my chair. I don’t think I could do a nap pillow as pictured! I do usually lock the door, but as a concession to the fact that “sleeping at work” is generally frowned upon, I usually face soemwhat against the door and put some papers in my lap so that if someone did walk, I’d look like I was just reading, if in a somewhat relaxed fashion.

    • I’ve totally done the pretend reading nap pose!

    • I nap probably once a week (or more if it is a bad week). I close my door, turn out the light, put on my puffy coat, and lie on the floor. Usually I wake up after 15 minutes. And I always feel better.

    • JessiJames :

      The “I’m reading this thing in my lap” pose is one of my best friends. Yay for plausible deniability!

    • I’ve done that as well, with my feet up on my low filing cabinet that is off to the side of my desk. I also have a rice heating pad in the shape of an eye mask that I’ll put over my eyes if I’m resting bc I feel a migraine coming on. Sometimes you need some total darkness to put you right. I rarely actually fall asleep though.

  7. A nap room? That’s a thing?

  8. I sometimes nap at work if I really need to – just 20 mins of sleep helps me power through another 9-10 hours of work, late into the evening. If I don’t get the nap I will instead be drowsy and inefficient for the rest of the day. I used to have an office where I could close and lock my door, but now I have glass walls so I have to find other locations to nap (we have a “quiet room”).

    • Also, reading this thread is making me really sleepy.

    • I did this as a teacher during lunch (i would find the one point in my classroom that wasn’t visible from the windows in the door and nap for 20 min) since that was the only thing keeping me from falling asleep on a student while explaining a concept sometimes.

      I sometimes do this now for the reason you state–so I can keep working, or otherwise, my words are gibberish.

    • Charlotte :

      I am so with you there. For some reason, that small amount of zoning out/”napping” can really power me through the rest of the day, past putting the kids to bed, etc. I love the power nap!

  9. Anonymous :

    I nap. Under my desk once at lunch (in fear of walk-in’s), once in a super quiet/unnoticed telephone closet (had a desk and chair), and more often in my car. I desperately wish this was a thing. . . it really makes me much more productive.

  10. I can NOT nap at the office b/c everyone would see me. The manageing partner and Frank do it all the time. Frank shut’s his door, and the manageing partner just put’s his feet up on the window ledge and snore’s for about a 1/2 hour between 3 and 3:30 almost every day, b/c the sun is comeing in his window! Lynn alway’s tell’s peeople who call during that time that the manageing partner “IS IN CONFRENCE” even tho he is sleepeing!

    I have a calendar call tomorow, so I am goeing to go straight down to FOLEY Square with Myrna on the subway from HOME. It is way to far to walk from home, and even from here, I would RUIN my pump’s if I wore them OUTSIDE. FOOEY on that! Dad has to understand that excercise is IMPORTANT, but preserveing my clotheing and shoe’s are also! YAY!

    I am goeing to meet Brian there to see if we can settel the case he scheduled for trial, b/c Roberta can NOT find a competent HR person who she feel’s comfortable would testify properly. Evidentley there are alot of idiot’s who work in there HR department, and NONE of them would make good witnesse’s. FOOEY! I was hopeing I could get this one to be tried, and Roberta could see ME in action. After all, if I have a shot at goeing in house, I will need to impress Roberta on my feet, not just eateing in the deli! Ha Ha!

    I read another articel about Sheryl Sandberg in the NY Times this weekend. I hope to be JUST like her in 10 year’s, running things at work, haveing a family and a husband who stay’s OUT of the lime light. I do NOT want my husband takeing anything away from me. I just need him to help out around the house, and make enough MONEY so that I do NOT have to worry about bieng the main bread winner.

    In the meanwhile, my dad keep’s nudgeing me to go out with Henry, after I chased him away. I got mad at Dad for encouregeing Henry to grab me. I told my mom about it and she was mad at dad to. Who tells a strange geekey guy to grab his daughters’ tuchus as soon as he meets her after 15 year’s? Even Frank thought it was dumb, tho he said he would NOT have a probelem doeing that to me. FOOEY on him. He is married, so I told him he could grab his wife’s tuchus any time she wanted, but I have no interest in Frank (or any one else then my husband) grabbeing my tuchus. FOOEY on that!

  11. Chrisie Elise :

    Does it count as napping when you have been pulling 12 hour days and when you can finally sit down for a bit, you kind of lose consciousness for a few minutes at a time?

  12. I nap for about 20 minutes with my head on my arms on my desktop about once per quarter. It’s better than coffee or taking a walk if I’m really tired. In the BigLaw office I was at, the SOP was to inform the secretary across from your office door that you “are closing your door for the next 20 minutes” so they could make sure no one disturbs you. It wasn’t unusual to see a bedroll under someone’s desk even though it was officially prohibited.

  13. Sugar Magnolia :

    It is a thing. In the mid-90s I was office manager for a small firm and instituted an office-wide napping policy. Anyone was allowed an extra 15 minutes of break time per day to nap as necessary. It really eliminated an issue we had with some employees leaving work midday because they had fallen ill with headaches (or possibly hangovers).

  14. anonforthis :

    We have a quiet rest room where you can nap if necessary. Most people just go in and close their eyes or meditate for a little. I would feel to self conscious though as the door is all transparent glass.

  15. I wish I could nap at work. I’m one of those people who takes forever to fall asleep, even when exhausted. On top of that, my environment has to be “just so” in order for me to even think about being able to sleep (lying down, pitch black dark, cool temperature, classical music). Unfortunately, I can’t claim that this makes me super-productive – all these idiosyncrasies don’t prevent me from slumping over and zoning out from time to time!

  16. I’d go to my car if I had to, but luckily I’ve managed to stay awake during work hours thus far. I was recently in a meeting where one of our colleagues visiting from abroad kept nodding off, no one said anything though I don’t know if the guy heard anything afterwards.

  17. I napped openly when I was pregnant — our then senior partner didn’t bat an eye once when I asked to reschedule a meeting so I could take a short nap — because I was so tired I just couldn’t get through the day without a rest. I had a loveseat in my office (and no glass walls) so it was easy. I’m a partner now and probably could get away with napping but I would feel awkward about it, I think. Well, and the loveseat is gone — I think the stiff neck from putting my head on my desk would outweight the benefits of the nap!

    • This. Pregnancy always made me drowsy in the mid-afternoon, more so the second and third times when there were other kids around to interfere with my sleep at night. Sometimes I would lie under my desk; not the most comfortable, but it worked…

  18. Early on in my career and before going to law school, I worked in Spain. The company I worked for had a split schedule – we worked from 9-2PM and then from 4-7PM. (This was very common.)

    Often I would return from the two-hour break and buzz my boss because his 4PM appointment had arrived, and he would emerge from his office with corduroy marks from the couch on the side of his face. LOL

    • Can we be sensible in the USA and adopt this practice? It would make working with CFIDS so much easier — my body forces me down at a certain point, and if I disobey, I run into post-exertional malaise. (See also this whole weekend, blaaaaaah.) Would deter us from overcompensating with energy drinks/caffeine, at any rate.

  19. Not everyone has an office at my workplace, so unfortunately those of us with cubicles (albeit large cubicles) have a much harder time napping at work. I wish I could. I really do get so sleepy.

    I have accidentally fallen asleep at my desk several times before without realizing it.

  20. I have napped in my car. I have also napped in the lounge where we have a couple of couches and the tables where people to eat lunch. I can’t actually sleep in those places but at least I can rest my eyes and brain a little.

    I don’ t think there is a good way to nap in a cubicle, alas.

  21. Saacnmama :

    I got fired from one of my first jobs for napping. It was a pharmacy, the owners daughter watched soap operas in the back room on her lunch break, so I figured I could take a nap on the floor back there during my lunch break. That was not the case!

  22. I cannot wait to be a professional with my own office and the option to take power naps when there is nothing to do. Entry-level schlubs are expected to be automatons, with parts instead of flesh. No wonder I went into a full-blown CFIDS relapse after four months at a call center. Never again!

    • I will nap in my car during my lunch break (30 min). I put up a window shade and crack the windows. It makes me a much nicer person to be around. I live in Texas, though, so I can get away with doing this most of the year – except in August. Car naps are how I survived my pregnancy at work.

  23. Wow, this brings back memories. I will nap occasionally in my office now; either put my head down on my desk, or for days when I’m really tired, I’ll close my door and crawl under my desk with a small blanket I have from when my firm gave them out one time for a staff gift (I managed to snag one). BUT, when I very first started working, my body was still on a fairly strong student schedule, so I couldn’t make it through the day without taking a nap. The first year or so, I probably napped three times a week.

    • Anonforthis :

      I wonder how long that student schedule lasts. I’m almost three years out from college and I STILL nap almost every day. I’m an admin assistant, and my boss travels a lot AND my cubicle walls are super high, so when the office is quiet, I pull up a PDF document on my computer screen, poise my hand on the mouse, slouch down in my chair (my back is to the entryway), lean my head back and doze off. I’ve even somehow trained my body to wake up after 15 mins. That’s when the screensaver comes on. Dead giveaway. I think I’ve only been caught once with telltale red eyes but that was a fellow coworker, and they all play on their cell phones when they’re bored so we’re even.

      In all actuality though, I think I could make it through the work week without a single nap if my workload was heavier and more interesting.

  24. WorkingMom :

    In a previous career I used to nap in my car! My day would start around 5am and by 2pm I was tuckered out. But had to “gear up” for my 5pm/6pm/7pm clients, so I would sneak out to my SUV in the massive parking lot, (I kept the backseat folded down), set my phone alarm and snooze for 30 min stretched out in the back. No one ever knew and it helped so much!

    In my current position napping at work would definitely be frowned upon. So it’s walks around the office, a cup of coffee or tea when I get sleepy. I had a coworker who years ago (this was probably late 90’s) who worked for a Japanese company in CA and they actually had nap time. They had little mats to roll out next to their desks and would all take 20-30 min naps mid-day! I think it’s genius, wish more employers would get on board with the concept!

    If you’re working an 8-hour day, maybe not – you’re an adult you should be able to stay awake all day. However, for those of us often working 10+ hours a day for months at a time… a 30 min nap here or there would likely increase productivity!

    Too bad I have a glass office…. :)

  25. Anonymous :

    ha, i was just getting ready to take a nap when I came across this. I nap in my office all the time. And when working from home, I usually take a 30-45 minute sleep around 1pm. It helps me focus for the afternoon.

  26. I have a sleep disorder that leaves me feeling tired a lot of the time, and on days when I am especially exhausted, it makes so much more sense for me to refresh myself with a 20-minute nap than to struggle to maintain consciousness all afternoon and have my productivity suffer. When it’s not winter, I’ll lie down in the back of my car and throw a blanket over myself. Otherwise, where I work there is an empty office that the nursing mothers use, and I have gotten permission from my boss to nap in there if I need to sometimes. If you have a medical condition (such as a sleep disorder, fibromyalgia, etc.) with symptoms that can be improved with napping, it is worth engaging in a conversation with your employer to see if an ADA accommodation can be arranged.

  27. I’m a college student. People sleep in their cars all the time but I just can’t. I’m use to pulling 9am to 9pm days between classes and working on campus. When ever anyone naps, it’s best to let someone know to wake you up at the appropriate time and to keep people from accidentally waking you. “Just let her sleep” is the best philosophy.

  28. I don’t have a private office, but I’ve taken the occasional nap in my car – usually if I’m getting over a cold and am healthy enough to be at work, but still feeling drained. There’s massive parking lots, so the chances of being seen (not that it would be a big deal, just awkward) are slim. When I DID have a private office, sometimes I’d take a nap between the end of my day job and my night classes.

  29. I do nap at work when I need to (even meditate to zone out). The nap tends to be in the car unless it is bitterly cold – otherwise it is at my desk or a meeting room.. My colleagues let me get on with it!

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